Ruger’s latest polymer pistol is designed to compete directly with the Glock, M&P, et. al., and shows that Ruger has learned from its competitors.
It was well over thirty years ago that I sat in Bill Ruger Sr.’s office in Newport, New Hampshire while Bill swore me to secrecy and showed me the prototype of what he hoped would be his company’s entry for the next American service pistol—a double-action, double-stack designated the P85. When the gun came out, it had some flaws, which Bill and his engineers quickly corrected in the P89 model, and the concept then advanced to the polymer-framed P95, which I for one thought continued the Ruger tradition of reliable, well-performing guns at “best buy” prices. They were “overbuilt” for heavy duty use, a Ruger tradition: it is probably not a coincidence that two of the greatest firearms designers of the 20th Century, William B. Ruger, Sr. and Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the AK47, became good friends after the Cold War was over.
Time went on. Striker-fired pistols with uniform trigger pulls from first shot to last came to dominate the market. Ruger responded with their SR series. After I wrote up the SR9 and said something like “The trigger, well, sucks,” I never got invited to another Ruger gun writers’ seminar. Ruger listened to that criticism from me (and many others) though, and to their everlasting credit, they improved the trigger pull of the SR9, SR45, etc. The SR series became another “best buy,” but for some reason, never came close to Glock in the polymer pistol market.
Now comes the Ruger American, the company’s most direct challenge to that market yet. One night over dinner at Bill Ruger’s house, I told him I considered him (as everyone else did) the greatest American gun designer of his time. He chuckled and responded, no, he considered himself an engineer who improved on the designs of those who had gone before him. True or not, that concept is found in the Ruger American, designed long after Bill’s passing, which indeed incorporates some of the most popular concepts in contemporary pistol design.
The removable internal chassis of the SIG P320? Check. Interchangeable backstraps for the grip-frame to adapt the gun to the hand size of the user, which tracks back to Walther twenty-some years ago? Check. The realization that if the trigger pull felt kinda like a Glock, most buyers wouldn’t care if the mechanical designation was “partially cocked” or “fully cocked,” which goes back to Springfield Armory’s XD-series revitalization of the Croatian HS HS2000 pistol of 1991? Check. The ambidextrous magazine release buttons of those Springfield XD pistols? Check, again. The ambidextrous slide release levers of the hugely popular Smith & Wesson Military & Police auto pistol series? Yup…that’s there too.
The three most popular bullet weights for the 9mm Luger cartridge are 115-, 124- and 147-grain (the latter being subsonic). One load of each, from three different makers, was tested from a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench at 25 yards. Each group was measured for all five hits and again for the best three, the latter to factor out unnoticed human error, which gives a close approximation to what all five would do from a machine rest with the same gun and load. We didn’t have access to a machine rest with inserts for this new pistol, nor do most of our readers, so the protocol I used gives something with which the reader can compare his own pistol with the magazine’s test.
For the 115-grain load, I used Federal 9BPLE, which over the years I’ve found to be the most accurate of the hot (+P+) 9mm loads, and not coincidentally a load that many major police agencies found to be a dynamic “man-stopper” in many decades of service. Running at about 1,300 feet per second, these bullets punched five holes 2.30” apart, the best three in a mere 1.06”.
For a 124-grain load I used Black Hills standard pressure with the Hornady XTP (“Extreme Terminal Performance”) jacketed hollow points. The quintet of holes measured 2.35”, with the best three in exactly an inch and a half.
The 147-grain subsonic round I chose was Winchester’s WinClean, usually very accurate; I’ve seen it win pistol matches. This particular Ruger American put the five shots into a 4.90” group, though the best three were in a redeeming 1.65”.
Our test American came out of the box shooting low. The 147-grain subsonic centered some four inches below point of aim, with the 115-grain hot loads almost that low, and the 124-grain standard velocity closer to point of aim by about two inches. For windage, though, the sights were pretty much on.
On the Firing Line
A Lyman digital trigger pull gauge showed pull weight on the test Ruger American measured 6.03 pounds at the toe, or bottom tip of the trigger, and 6.76 pounds from the center, where most shooters place their trigger finger.
Weighing a few ounces more than the Glock 17 it’s designed to compete against, the American is advertised as having recoil-reducing qualities. Our four testers, all state and/or regional champion combat pistol shooters, were mixed in their admittedly subjective analysis of this factor. Two, very familiar with Glocks and other polymer, striker-fired 9mm pistols in the same class, said they didn’t perceive any difference, but also did not test them side by side. Two others made a point of shooting the Ruger American alongside a Gen4 Glock 17 against a Bianchi Cup array of six falling plates from eleven yards (GSSF format), and in rapid sustained fire against a steel torso target. Both the petite female and the average size adult male said they thought the Ruger kicked a tiny bit less, but neither thought the difference was either a deal-maker or a deal-breaker.
Unanimously, though, the testers liked the short trigger reach with the smallest of the backstrap configurations. All agreed it allowed them to get “more finger on the trigger” for more leverage. The aforementioned female tester said, “My two favorite things about the Ruger American are that I can get more of my index finger onto the trigger without altering my hold and not having the barrel in line with my forearm, and that the magazine release buttons are placed where I can work them more easily than on my other pistols”
Now, let’s talk about those magazine release buttons and speed reloading. Southpaw or “northpaw,” you have the option of hitting that mag drop button with your thumb or with your trigger finger or the middle finger of the firing hand. That gets the empty one out quick, and we found the nickel-Teflon-steel bodied magazines did indeed drop free very cleanly without fail. When the fresh mag was inserted, the top of the mag was sufficiently tapered, and the magazine well sufficiently capacious, that insertion was always very fast and very positive. The ambidextrous slide stop/slide release lever also made it possible to achieve maximum speed of slide closure no matter which hand was controlling the firing mechanism.
In terms of trigger characteristics, the experienced testers rated this one basically “OK.” One said, “Meh.” Trigger reset is longer than some of the competitive guns. One expert perceived some “stacking,” or pull becoming heavier toward the end of the firing stroke, but none of the others found that. I shot it over the 60-round police-type qualification I’ve been running my students through for decades. I usually score 300 out of 300 points on demand, but dropped to a 297 with the American, all three sub-par shots straying into the four-out-of-five point zone at 15 yards. Sad thing was, I didn’t feel those three rounds go astray. A 99% score is nothing to sneeze at, though.
Among us, the four testers put close to a thousand rounds through this gun, out of the box, without cleaning or additional lubrication. Reliability was flawless. Every other test of this gun I’ve seen, with one exception which apparently involved some defective ammunition, has had the same result. Reliable function has always been a hallmark of Ruger firearms, and the new American is apparently no exception.
I spent a day carrying the American in a Galco Yaqui Slide holster. It concealed adequately under a SIG-Tac vest, and felt about like carrying a Glock 21. No sharp edges snagged clothing or dug uncomfortably into the body.
The “striker-fired 9mm pistol market” is the most hotly contested in the handgun industry today. I liked the speed of reloading and the short trigger reach afforded with the smallest of the optional grip inserts that come with the Ruger American. The latter feature will be particularly appreciated by shooters with shorter fingers. Curiously, when I held the gun hard I could feel a tiny “creak” in the grip sleeve, but it did not seem to affect shooting.
Accuracy was in the ballpark with the Glock, and better than I saw with early XD and M&P 9mms, though these brands are all in the same ballpark today. The Ruger American is also available as a 10+1 capacity .45 ACP, as well as the 17+1 capacity 9mm we tested. MSRP in either caliber is $579. This does not greatly undersell the competition, and somewhat loses a traditional Ruger selling point, which was often a dramatically lower selling price than other firearms in the same categories.
That said, the features mentioned above may make this particular Ruger the choice for a lot of people looking for a gun of this genre. My police department adopted the Ruger P90 .45 in 1993, and I used my issued P90 to win the state shoot for cops in New Hampshire in 2000. We went to the updated Ruger P345 in the same caliber in 2005, and I placed First Master against tricked out 1911s with mine in the Custom Defense Pistol division at the Pennsylvania State IDPA Championships in 2007, in each case drawing from Safariland 070 Level III security holsters on a duty belt. The P345 served us well until 2015. If my department issued me one of these new Ruger American pistols tomorrow, I wouldn’t lose a moment’s sleep over it. The Ruger American appears to be a stand-up piece of gear.
See the new Ruger American pistols at your gun shop, or contact Sturm, Ruger & Co., Dept. OT; Tel.: (336) 949-5200: Web: www.ruger.com
Source Article from http://ontargetmagazine.com/2016/08/ruger-american-9mm/